No Matter How Much You Exercise, This Is Still Killing You, Science Says



As I type this, after sitting for nearly four consecutive hours in my desk chair, I’m thinking: I should really start hoarding discarded boxes I find lying around the office and build my own makeshift standing desk. Why? Because according to a new report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, if you spend the majority of your day sitting, the chances that you’ll develop health problems, like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, skyrocket—even if you work out regularly.

As TIME reports, researchers looked at 47 studies that asked folks how much time they spent sitting and exercising, and included information on rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death from any cause. What they found after evaluating all of these studies is pretty freakin’ scary: Heavy sitters—so those of us who sit at our desks all day long, then head home and squeeze in a few episodes of Orange is the New Black while sitting on the couch—had a 90 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who sat less, an 18 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or cancer and 24 percent greater odds of dying from any cause. And here’s the part that will make you scream “But NOOOO”: These rates were the average among both heavy sitters who didn’t exercise regularly and those who did.

More research needs to be done to figure out exactly why sitting is so terrible for us and how much of it is actually okay. Meantime, the report’s lead researcher David Alter, a heart expert at the University of Toronto and senior scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, suggests that those of us who already exercise regularly focus on sitting less, rather than exercising more to try to counteract the effects of sitting. As he told TIME, “You can make a little bit of headway on the bad effects of sedentary time by at least doing some exercise. But you can’t completely nullify it.”

Standing desk, here I come.

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